DAC Basics

The services DACFx provide revolve around some key concepts and technologies. We’ll walk through these step by step so you can see how these basic concepts can leveraged together to provide advanced services.

Basic Concept 1: The In-Memory Database Model

Central to every DACFx service is the need to build and traverse an in-memory model of a database. DACFx is a client side library and so it communicates with SQL Server like any other SQL client does – over a standard SQL TDS connection. Before DACFx can provide services over a database, DACFx must deeply understand what a database actually is. DACFx has an internal in-memory model that covers all the different database objects, their properties, and state. Database objects are any entity you can create in SQL Server with a “CREATE” T-SQL statement. Examples of objects include tables, views, functions, procedures, indices, and constraints.

Another way to describe the model is to say that SQL Server has a structured physical model for a database. When you create an object in SQL Server, a physical record is written out on disk or disk space is allocated for it. DACFx has an in-memory model that maps to the SQL engine’s model.

The in-memory database model is vital to all DAC operations because it allows DACFx to provide client-side services without having to change or manipulate a real database.

Basic Concept 2: The File Format

DACFx has two associated file formats, the DACPAC and the BACPAC. Both file formats are based on the standard System.IO package format in .NET. Effectively, this means you can modify the file extension of any DACPAC or BACPAC to “.zip” and unzip the contents.

If you crack open a DACPAC you will find some XML files which contain the full schema definition for a database. All database objects are represented through entities in XML. DACFx also stores associated properties about an entity as well as any relationships it has to other entities.

We do not store T-SQL inside the DACPAC! Only the serialized in-memory database model is stored for simple retrieval later on. For example DACFx can quickly read a DACPAC to create an in-memory model of the database defined in the DACPAC. Similarly, DACFx can write out a new DACPAC to disk from an in-memory database model for later use or reference.


You’ll see in subsequent sections how this simple but vital capability is used in providing a useful service.

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